We head back to the mega-scene with untold pockets of wonderful musical genres – NYC – to hang it with electro pop heroes Stereo Off (Darren, Bridget, Sebastian, Niall, and Steve) to learn about their fresh take on the indie scene – music some describe as electroclash or electrorock. Bottom line, this outfit loves manipulating various tones and textures to produce something that’s not exactly synth rock, and not exactly rock n’ roll. It’s a sub-genre Stereo Off is happy to occupy, and one listen to their latest EP, The Long Hot Winter, and you’ll hear exactly why.
We asked the band to tell us all about the latest effort – Sebastian told us, “The TLHW EP has a more electronic sound than our first release and usually starts with either Niall coming with a lead melody and changes on guitar and we go from there, or I’ll have a demo with a lot of synths for him to replace guitar parts or we write changes together. Often I’ve got some lyrics as soon as it starts to take shape.” Click to www.stereooff.com to get into The Long Hot Winter, and do it quick. Stereo Off is already preparing for a third EP and an album next year. Before clicking away however, keep reading. There’s still so much more to get into in all the answers to the XXQs below.
XXQs: Stereo Off
PEV: How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out from others in your genre?
Sebastian (S): The sound can be described as indie pop or electroclash or electrorock – those might fit. We love getting into different tones and textures, and our tastes are as diverse as our backgrounds.
Niall (N): The fact that everyone seems to interpret our music differently, from 80’s synth to 90’s indie, electro to rock and roll, the variety, that’s what I think is our stand out point.
PEV: What kind of music were you all into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
S: I grew up on a lot of soul music, folk, blues and classic R&B that my parents would listen to. My dad was a musician and my mom is eclectic, but ironically used to pump pop radio in the car when I was very young, because she thought I would like it, ‘hey that’s what the kids are listening to’ kind of thing. Later I got heavy into hip-hop also.
N: As a kid, sure it was more pop, then perhaps 90’s hip-hop and a lot of indie rock bands that were less formulaic. Gig-wise I went to a lot of smaller venues rather than stadiums for instance.
PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene in your hometown, when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like together as a band?
N: A bit of Deja vu, as we knew each other and have seen previous/other bands in many cases with other members in it.
S: Our first show together was great, at the Knitting Factory. As well as working with collaborators since high school when I put my first vinyl out, but still are very close friends with them, like brothers. Seeing each other play live and jamming together shows us the progression in real time.
N: We mix it up a bit more when live, with thicker guitars, delays and live strings (viola) on some songs. The on stage energy helps us throw more of a twist on a lot of tracks.
S: We’ll swap instruments around sometimes and keep it interesting. I want more lights and video art. Expect me to dance. I can’t help it.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
N: Not much. If anything I try to clear my mind as much as possible.
S: Excited to see interested faces who are ready for a party or down to hear something new. Also I’m subconsciously wondering, ‘how much spit has the opening band pumped into this mic?’ It’s a normal thing so, you know…BYOM(icrophone).
PEV: How is playing in Stereo Off different from working with other artists or projects in the past?
N: I think it has been more organized in some ways; songs tend to get created outside of rehearsals in this band. It’s partially because of technology allowing more of these things to happen, whereas in previous bands, songs were done more on the fly in the rehearsal room.
S: Likewise, my last band had a lot of fantastic players in it but we weren’t super focused. That was great music and very fun but this feels more deliberate.
PEV: What is the underlying inspiration for your music? Where do you get your best ideas for songs?
N: For me, riffs come at the most random moments. I wish I knew where and how the ideas come from, other then they tend to be late at night.
S: When writing anything it’s usually a mood or a little world I want to share with others, like watching a movie together. Other times I just want to dance and need to facilitate that immediately. The best ideas come from daydreaming, experimentation and our obsessions.
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back on your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?
N: It’s rare that I even think about past bands or past accomplishments. Maybe I should one day, but I tend to think the best is yet to come.
S: I agree it keeps on getting better and I feel extremely fortunate to have had our amazing teachers, bandmates and friends in life.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Stereo Off?
N: We are digitally programmed by aliens.
PEV: What can fans expect from your new EP, The Long Hot Winter? Tell us about the writing process behind this work.
S: The TLHW EP has a more electronic sound than our first release and usually starts with either Niall coming with a lead melody and changes on guitar and we go from there, or I’ll have a demo with a lot of synths for him to replace guitar parts or we write changes together. Often I’ve got some lyrics as soon as it starts to take shape.
PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song or album is complete and you can sit back and listen to it in full?
N: It is only then the song is truly set and done. Otherwise you can change it forever. It’s a great feeling as it means you are onto the next set of songs in some way!
S: Definitely. The only thing that beats the taste of completion is creating something new.
PEV: What would you say is the biggest challenge for musicians trying to make a name for themselves these days?
N: It’s a very crowded market. Hard to find something that’s not done already, but mix it up as much as you can perhaps.
PEV: With all your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
N: Anywhere that the crowd would be into it. The more remote, the better too.
S: I love France. South Korea and Australia for sure too.
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play in your hometown?
N: They have been super supportive of us.
PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
N: Film has always been an interest of mine; I have worked on some short films and it was inspiration to make our own music video for “Bullet Time”. It fared quite well and made a couple of film festivals. You can watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3iKXf7_Nio. We also plan on making a music video for a song or two off the second EP in the coming months.
S: Film, art, food and video games.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?
S: If Ric Ocasekand Lyfelike produced an album for us, it would be a classic. Ric is both past and present in the best ways and a great producer, and Lyfelike is my favorite remixer right now.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
S: You gotta check out Cruture, Monogold and Color Guard.
PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal), what do you think each of you would be doing for a career?
S: I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
PEV: So, what is next for Stereo Off?
N: A third EP and then an album next year, with a new line-up and more shows out of NYC. Thanks and check us out on facebook.com/stereooff – www.stereooff.com – twitter.com/stereooff – and soundcloud.com/stereo-off.